The image on the screen flickered to life and Kagome drew in a sharp breath at the face presented on the screen.
"Pappa…" she whispered as the tears welled in her eyes, blurring the image of the dark haired man with the kind eyes staring out at her from the television.
The sound of his voice wrought a choked sob from her throat and she scrambled for the remote control as the tears fell in rivers from her eyes, blindly pressing at a button to stop the image. She closed her eyes and brought the remote control close to her chest, curling up on the couch and burying her head in her knees.
'Oh, pappa,' she thought as she tried to control her breathing. Why had her mother left this for her? Why wasn't she here to watch it with her? Why did she have to go through this alone? She didn't think she could do it. She couldn't face that pain that nearly overwhelmed her when she saw him…heard him again…but 'Angel,' she thought. It had been her father's nickname for her.
Slowly, she lifted her head and looked at the screen to find that she had pressed pause instead of stop and consequently her father's face was still half-smiling at her from the screen, distorted slightly by the strain on the tape from the machine to freeze the image.
She had forgotten his voice.
His face was in her memory like a faded photograph, somewhat crinkled and yellowed a little at the corners, but it was kept fresh by the pictures in her mother's room of him. She rarely really went into her mother's room, but on the off occasion when she did, she always looked at the picture of their wedding on her mother's dresser…but even that picture was of so long ago and the image of her father it presented was not the father she remembered…it was of a boy in love and with his whole life ahead of him, not that of a man coming to terms with having to leave his family behind.
But his voice…
She had lost the memory of his voice so long ago without even realizing it. Without realizing it, she had stood from the couch and crouched before the television, holding a hand to the image of his face before her. "Pappa…" she repeated.
Her hands were shaking when she sought out the rewind button on the black controller. Shaking so much, she could hardly hold her hand steady enough to press down on the right button and by the time she pressed the play button at the beginning of the tape, she was taking in deep lungfulls of air in an effort to keep from crying.
The image crackled to life again and although she was more prepared this time, she had to bring a hand up to her lips to still the gasp as her father's face appeared. Her eyes took in his image hungrily, her memory replenishing the faded parts of his image with those offered by this immortal one. His skin was healthier than she remembered it, his eyes brighter and his hair…she took in a shaky breath…his hair was fuller. Her memories were of him already in the grips of the disease that had been eating him from the inside for years.
But here…here he still looked healthy and bright, not as tired as she remembered him.
"Hello, Angel," his voice interrupted her thoughts. Kagome blinked the tears out of her eyes and steeled herself to watch the whole tape. "You're probably wondering why you're watching this tape, huh?" he asked, cocking his head a little to the side as if he could see through time and space, from beyond the screen and right into her heart. "You're probably wondering where its been all this time and why no one's shown it to you before now…"
Kagome found herself nodding. "Why?" she asked softly.
He smiled and his hand went to scratch the back of his head. The gesture was startlingly familiar. Kagome smiled as she realized that Souta did the exact same thing when he was feeling sheepish. "I asked them not to, baby," he confessed.
Kagome's eyes lit up in a momentary anger. "Why not?!" she exclaimed to the television.
"Now, calm down, angel," her father said to the camera. "I wanted to make certain you were old enough so that it wouldn't hurt too much to see it…" he trailed off and sighed. "You're probably around 16 or 17 as you watch this…that is, if your mom's done as I asked. And if, like I asked, it's your 16th birthday, well then…" he smiled. "Happy Birthday, Angel."
Kagome closed her eyes and ignored the tears as they trailed down her cheeks. "Thank you, pappa," she whispered in response.
"In any case, you're probably wondering what this is…" he exhaled. "It feels a little silly, to tell you the truth, but I just found out a few weeks ago that…" he paused and she could see him visibly swallow. "That the Cancer in my pancreas has spread beyond the point where the doctors feel hopeful that they'll get rid of it." He sighed. "You were 5 years old when they found the cancer," he told her. "Too young really to realize what was going on. Your baby brother, Souta, was so small, but you're 7 now as I tape this and currently with your grandfather at some festival or other."
He paused for a moment as if wondering how to continue. "You're starting to realize now that something's wrong, but Angel," he leaned forward a little. "Please forgive me for any lie we might have told you regarding my condition." Kagome suddenly remembered times when she talked with her father. "But we felt it was the best thing to do at the time…there was no need for us to worry you or make you feel worse than you did everytime I was too sick to come out and play with you." He exhaled. "In case you're wondering and haven't figured it out since, it's the chemo that did it," he told her matter-of-factly. "I'll probably be stopping it soon…I can't take the feeling sick one way to avoid feeling sick the other, and Kagome…" he looked as if he wished he could touch her and Kagome reached out to touch the screen instead.
"I'm sorry, baby," he told her. "I'm so sorry that I won't be able to keep my promises to you and can't be there with you right now, but this is the best I could do." He sighed. "I want you to know that leaving you has been the hardest thing that I have ever had to do." He put a hand to his heart. "I think the thought of leaving you hurts me more than the chemo or the radiation or even the sickness itself." He reached up to wipe a tear from his cheek and Kagome found herself mirroring his actions.
"So," he said, purposefully brightening. "This is meant to be a kind of video diary for you." He smiled. "I'm going to be keeping the camera around me for a few days and everytime I think of something I want you to know, I'll turn it on and tell you." He grinned. "It's going to be a little loopy, you know, cause we really don't know anyone to do a proper editing job of it, but," he shrugged, "whatever, right?" He clapped his hands and sat up straighter. "Right, so the first thing I want to tell you is…" he paused and grew serious. "Stay away from bad boys."
His expression was so serious that she had expected some kind of metaphysical philosophical knowledge so when she heard what the first thing he told her was, she half laughed, half sobbed.
"I know what you're probably thinking…" he screwed his eyes into funny shape and brought his hands up to his sides in an imitation of a teenage girl. "Oh, but they're so cute!" he exclaimed in a high pitched voice. "But angel, they're only going to bring you trouble! Trust me! I brought nothing but trouble for your mother and she'll…" he laughed. "Okay, so nevermind all that…" he smiled softly at her. "The truth is that when it comes to love, you should follow your heart." He shrugged. "I know it sounds trite and like something out of a hallmark card, but trust me." He shook his head. "I'm not going to lie to you, Kagome, it's gonna hurt like hell." He exhaled and nodded. "I don't know if by now you've had your first crush, but if it didn't hurt…really hurt…if it didn't feel like a piece of you that had no business being taken was being ripped from you, then it wasn't really love."
Kagome cocked her head at her father. "Gee, thanks, pappa," she spoke under her breath.
"I know what you're going to say," he told her. "I know it seems harsh, but listen…" he settled more comfortably. "No one…and I mean no one…can know what love is without feeling that feeling of being crushed by a fifteen ton truck…without wondering why it is that the world around you has kept turning when your world has screeched to a halt." He shrugged. "Feeling that, experiencing that, is the price we pay for the ecstasy of love." He shook his head. "And if you happen to be in a so called perfect relationship where you feel you completely love the guy and he loves you and you never fight and you never disagree, I would say that you need to leave him…leave him now. Tell him your father spoke to you from beyond the grave and commanded it, because Angel, if he agrees with everything you say, if he never makes you feel like you would happily strangle him, then it isn't love, he doesn't deserve you, and you're settling." He shrugged a little again. "I know you're thinking that I'm wishing you pain or suffering, but I'm not." He leaned forward again and Kagome could see the feeling in his eyes, the sincerity…the love. "I'm wishing you to experience life…I'm wishing for you to live…everyday…live…to the fullest." He smiled a little. "Never settle, Angel, never say, that's enough, in anything in life: in your studies, in your friends, in sports, in anything you set your mind to doing and especially…especially in love."
He leaned back again. "Now that I've explained that, I'll tell you where I get my information from." He crossed his legs and smiled reminiscently at the camera. "I don't know if your mother ever told you this, but…we almost didn't marry." He chuckled to himself. "We were always fighting, your mother and I." He shook his head. "I knew I loved her almost from the first moment I saw her. But it was when we were out together, alone, for the first time and although we were both feeling the attraction, I told her some silly, mundane thing, and she called me on it." He shook his head. "And she never let me get away with anything, not even now." He rose a finger. "But…I never let her get away with anything either." He smiled wryly at her. "And that's just what made every day of the marriage wonderful, you see?" Kagome shook her head, and as if her father could see her he explained. "I trust her like I have never trusted anyone ever before and like I am not likely to trust anyone ever again. And because she never let me get away with one thing, I know that she loves me."
He shrugged. "I'm not explaining this very well, but what I mean to say is that when you find that person that makes you feel that way and you can fight with them and you still feel that way towards them and you feel as if your heart's being torn out everytime you really fight or everytime you're apart, then you know its love and you know its worthy of love and if it works out for you, then you know it was meant to be." He stopped and took a deep breath. "And if it doesn't work out…" he sighed. "If it doesn't work out, then it wasn't really love, it was just practice, even if at the time you think you feel your heart being twisted in a blender, you really don't if it doesn't work out, because I can tell you this, Angel," he nodded. "I truly believe there is one person for every one of us out there, and whatever the fates need to do to get you two together they will and if it doesn't work out, don't hang on to it…grieve, learn, and move on, because someone else is waiting out there and you'll never recognize him if you aren't looking."
He paused for a few moments and all Kagome heard was the sound of his breathing. "Okay," he said to the camera. "Enough of this heavy stuff…now, on to the fun stuff."
Kagome leaned back against the foot of the sofa, ignorant of the tears as they fell anymore.
"I know that some of the things I liked most was talking to my father about things I would do as a kid. So," he exhaled. "Here goes…I'll just reminisce…" he blushed a little. "If you don't like these, or if you've heard these stories, I guess you could fast forward through these…"
Kagome had heard some of the stories he retold, but she had never heard her father telling them, so she let the tape run, hearing the stories as if it was the first time she had heard them.
She had forgotten how playful and funny her father had been. He didn't take himself serious and half the stories he told as moments of pride for him were moments when Kagome had done something silly or witty that had stumped other people.
"…and when I finally found you, you were standing with this American woman," he trailed off and shook his head. "Now mind, you were almost 4 years old and this American woman was talking to you in English and you were looking at her as if you understood every word she was saying." He shook his head. "Anyway, so I walked up to you and her and introduced myself as your father in my broken English, and this woman looked at you, she was a stewardess, and asked you in English what your name was." He smiled. "I was about to tell her that you didn't speak English, but just as calm as you please, you looked at her and clear as a bell said, 'Kagome'." He shook his head again. "I don't know how you understood her, it must have been because of the television or something, but somehow, you just knew what she was asking you, much to my complete and utter surprise…"
Kagome had never heard that story. She listened to her father's voice, trying to remember any of the little moments he was speaking about, but it was so hard…so hard to just remember…she remembered being held in his arms, she remembered pretending to be asleep whenever they were coming back from somewhere in the car so that her father would carry her and tuck her into bed just because she loved the feel of being carried. She remembered being out in the sunlight with him while he taught her about the plants they had on the shrine.
The scenery behind him changed and she no longer recognized the room he was in. He was half sitting, half lying on a pure white bed and it become obvious to Kagome that he was in a hospital room. Slowly, Kagome realized that he was cradling something in his arms, against his form on the bed…a smallish something…with longish dark hair and white skin.
"Why is pappa sleeping in this strange room?" 7 year old Kagome was asking.
"Because Pappa is sick," her father answered.
"And sleeping here will make pappa better?" she asked, sleepily rubbing at her eyes.
Her father was quiet for a few moments, and the camera caught him looking at the little girl laying next to him. He gently pushed the hair out of her face and when she blinked up at him, he smiled tenderly at her. "Yes, angel," he told her finally, his voice very soft.
The child that Kagome had been pouted as she looked up at him. "When are you coming home, Pappa?" she asked. "I miss you so much…no one sings me lullabies anymore." She sighed, playing with the string of his robe. "Ayumi said that I'm getting too old for lullabies but I think she says that only because her mamma can't sing and her pappa can't sing either, so she's just jealous," she explained sleepily.
"Why don't you ask mamma to sing you a lullaby, angel?" her father asked softly.
"Mamma's a good singer," she confirmed earnestly, "but she's not you, pappa, she's mamma and I love it when pappa sings me a lullaby…" she trailed off and before her father could say anything else, another thought entered her mind. "Teacher told me today that I was going to be the apple in the school play this year, pappa," she told him, as excitedly as she could considering the late hour.
"And I'm sure you'll be the best apple of all of the apples that came before you," he confirmed.
She smiled sleepily at him. "And pappa will cheer for me from the stands…" she frowned as yet another thought came to her. She looked up at him. "Why didn't you come to the open school yesterday, pappa?"
"I wasn't feeling very well, Angel," he answered. "But tell me all about it…do you like your teacher?"
She frowned and looked back at the tie of his robe, playing with the material absently. "She's okay, I guess," she said under her breath.
"Just okay?" he asked.
"She looks at me funny," she admitted.
"What do you mean?" he pressed.
"She looks at me as if she's waiting for me to cry," she told him. "And sometimes, when she looks at me, she looks sad, like her puppy disappeared." She shrugged. "It makes me feel funny…" she looked up at her father. "Why does she look at me like that, pappa?" She blinked at him. "Do I make her sad?"
Her father hugged her to him. "No, Angel…you're very special, don't you know that?" Kagome shook her head against him. "You make everyone around you feel better just by being close to you."
Kagome smiled and blushed, burying her face against his shoulder to hide the blush. "No I don't…" she mumbled against him.
"You do…you make me feel better and you make your mamma feel better…even Souta says if he's scared at night he just has to come to your room and he feels better."
Kagome scoffed against him still. "Souta's a baby," she told him. "And he gets scared at nothing."
Watching the video, Kagome was suddenly inundated with the memory of the smell of her father. Like aftershave and shampoo and…she inhaled…and clean soap.
Her father pulled her away from him so he could look at her face. "Kagome, promise me you'll take care of Souta always."
Kagome, somehow, knew that this was an important moment, because she was suddenly very serious and still. "I promise, Pappa," she said solemnly.
Suddenly, something off the corner of her eye finally caught her attention and she turned to face the camera.
"Hi mamma!" 7 year old Kagome called from her very comfortable place next to her father.
"Hi, mamma," her father said softly, smiling at the camera. He tapped 7 year old Kagome on the nose and Kagome giggled. "Angel," he said to her. "Do you know what mamma's doing?" he asked. 7 year old Kagome shook her head. "She's helping pappa make a video for you."
"Video?" 7 year old Kagome tried the word out on her tongue.
"For me?" Kagome asked, all innocence and wonder.
"All for you."
Kagome smiled. "What for?"
"So you can remember me," her father answered.
"I'll never forget you, pappa!" Kagome exclaimed, hugging him impulsively. "I'll remember you forever and ever and ever!"
"Well," her father said, a bitter sweet smile on his lips. "This is just to help you remember how much I will love you forever and ever and ever!"
"Okay," 7 year old Kagome decided, grinning up at her father, oblivious to the dark circles under his eyes or the slight yellowish tint to what should have been white eyes. "Is pappa going to sing me a lullaby now?"
Her father nodded and settled 7 year old Kagome against his side, tucking her head in the hallow of the crook of his shoulder.
"Goodnight my angel," her father voice came steady and clear as he rhythmically ran his hand through little Kagome's hair. "Time to close your eyes…" he continued. "And save these questions for another day," he pressed her closer to him. Watching, Kagome felt the tears prick her eyes. She remembered arguing with her father when he said jokingly once that his voice would never get him on Star Search. It was masculine and clear, steady and strong, and he kept to the melody, but now she could admit that it wasn't Billy Joel. Still…she couldn't help thinking how beautiful it was. "I think I know what you've been asking me…" he sang, his voice a bit softer, but still steady. "I think you know what I've been trying to say."
Kagome knew she could feel her heart breaking…all the more because she was starting to realize that her father had been trying to tell her something with that lullaby…something she was too young to understand and had, she remembered, only translated as meaning that her pappa would always be with her.
"I promised I would never leave you…"
"I love hugging you, pappa…can I hug you forever?"
"And you should always know…" on the screen her father turned his head to look at the camera and Kagome could see the feeling in his dark brown orbs. "Wherever you may go," he seemed to be speaking directly to her. "No matter where you are…" he wiped at a tear and then lay his hand back on little Kagome's shoulders, gently rubbing her back. "I never will be far away."
"Where do birds go when they die, pappa?" She had been so shocked to realize the bird on the floor wouldn't be moving anymore. She hadn't really known what it meant to die.
"To heaven, angel." Her father had been so patient with her. Had he already known he was sick then? She couldn't really remember how old she was, only the vague feeling of her father putting his arm around her and helping her bury the blue bird. She knew what death meant now…she had seen it far too many times…but she never got used to it.
"Are they happy there?"
"Only if you're happy."
"Because then they can see your smiling face always."
"Goodnight my angel now its time to sleep…" her father was gently rocking her and the look on her little girl face was so peaceful, so serene, that she was definitely asleep, but her father continued singing.
"And still so many things I want to say," he turned back to the camera. "Remember all the songs you sang for me?" he asked. "When we went sailing on an emerald bay?"
"Where do fish go to sleep, pappa?" The rocking of the boat had made her a little sleepy and Souta had fallen asleep after the good meal and her mamma was dozing a little as she lay next to her pappa and it seemed that only her pappa and her were awake, so she fought off sleep in order to talk to her pappa. The wind whipped in the white, white sails as the ocean spanned out sparkling green around them.
Her pappa had smiled at her. "With their mammas and their pappas, of course!"
She had laughed so hard at that joke, giggling, trying to keep quiet to not wake up her brother or mother so that it could stay as a joke between them.
"And like a boat out on the ocean," Kagome closed her eyes, listening to his voice and letting the memories overwhelm her for a moment. She remembered singing softly with him, some silly song about a Walrus and a Carpenter…had they made that up? She couldn't recall.
"I'm rocking you to sleep…" She didn't want to open her eyes, see the farewell in her father's eyes as he sang the next part of the song, so she tightened her eyes closed, but it only made the memories of him come all the easier.
"The water's dark and deep inside this ancient heart…"
Kagome opened her eyes and found herself looking right into her father's eyes. He was looking at her. "You'll always be a part of me."
The image on the screen blurred as the tears perched on her lids until she blinked hard to clear them. He crooned a little and again his hands were caressing her hair. Little Kagome reacted by pressing closer to him and mumbling a little in her sleep.
"Goodnight my angel," he sang to the small Kagome in his arms. "Now its time to dream…" he looked at the camera and smiled a little. "And dream how wonderful your life will be."
There was such hope in his eyes, such faith that her life would be wonderful that it made her tears come even harder.
"What if I want to be a…a…garbage man!"
Her father had laughed at her. "You can't be a garbage man, silly, you're a girl!"
He had tweaked her nose. "You'd have to be a garbage lady!"
She had scrunched up her nose and shaken her head. "I don't like the sound of that."
He shrugged. "Whatever it is you want to be, Angel, is fine with us, as long as you're happy," he told her earnestly. "As long as you don't settle, Angel, never settle, but if you want to be a garbage lady, then be the best garbage lady EVER!"
Kagome had giggled at his expression and he had lifted her up and swung her around in the air much to her delight. "Higurashi Kagome! Queen of the Garbage Ladies!"
"Someday your child may cry…" she could see the tears brimming in his eyes, but he wiped them away before they fell. "And if you sing this lullaby…" The camera shook a little and her father's gaze when to the person behind the camera for a moment, and he smiled such a soft, sweet smile that it made Kagome's breath catch in her throat. "Then in your heart there will always be a part…" he took a deep breath and looked back into the camera. "…of me…"
He watched as little Kagome settled against him with a contented sigh and he raised the blanket to cover her chin. "Someday we'll all be gone…" he whispered. "But lullabies go on and on…" he looked at the camera and then for a moment, he shared a look with her mother holding it. For a brief moment, he looked… defeated …but it was gone as quick as it appeared and he looked back at sleeping Kagome. "They never die…" his voice broke and he had to swallow hard before he could continue. "That's how you and I will be..."
Her pappa was crying. Kagome could see the almost imperceptible tears running down his face. Or, he had been crying.
"I probably shouldn't be taping, now," he told the camera, his voice tired and a little breathless. He took in a deep breath. "I don't want you to remember me this way," he admitted. "And your mother's not even in the room right now, but I just had to tell you some things that occurred to me and I'm afraid…" he paused, taking deep breathes. "I'm afraid I might not remember them later…"
"Kagome," he blinked and it was very, very slow. "You are a very special girl…." he took a deep breath. "You are the first female decedent of the Higurashi line in a very long time." He shook his head. "I just spoke to your grandpa and he doesn't seem like he's willing to tell you about it…" he sighed. "We always argued about this, ever since I was a child…he believed…" he stopped himself and shook his head again. "Well, it doesn't matter what he believed, I suppose, but you should just know…" again he paused to take a deep breath and he looked almost angry at the interruption. "…that our line has always been…blessed…" He looked at the camera and Kagome felt as if he were looking right at her.
What are you trying to say, pappa? Kagome wondered.
"The Higurashis have been a line known to produce male heirs…" he told her. She could see the weariness in him, the way he held onto the arm of the chair tighter. "It was said long ago, that when a girl was born to the line, she would be special…with abilities beyond the normal miko…" He realized that word he had used and nodded a little. "You come from a long line of mikos and priests, little one…" he sighed. "Very long, if the stories can be believed…" he took several breaths. "I have always thought it prudent to tell you when you came of age, to prepare you, but your grandfather had always wanted to protect you…" he shook his head. "He was afraid of enemies that would come after you should you know, but…" he stopped, looked down and then back up. "I don't want to frighten you, my angel," he told her. "This is all superstitious myth," he sighed. "But my great grandmother was a Higurashi cousin and she had abilities…that people could not even begin to imagine." He smiled a little lopsidedly. "Even the Higurashi men have a little bit of abilities, not like that of the women, but …" he shrugged a little. "Like I dreamt of your mother before I met her, did she ever tell you that?" he smiled. "And I dreamt of you before you were born, too…I knew exactly what you would look like and I knew you would be a girl."
He shook his head. "Enough of this stuff, I shouldn't probably have even told you…maybe father was right, but I just wanted you to know that if strange things start happening to you…strange dreams or…anything that doesn't seem normal, you're not strange or alone…that's its all part of who you are…that you come from a long line…" He sighed and looked at the camera as if he were lost, suddenly.
"I'm sorry, Kagome…" he said suddenly, the tears welling in his eyes. "I'm sorry my body was too weak to fight this off so that I could be by your side…"
Kagome was crying in earnest again, and she shook her head. "It wasn't your fault, pappa," she told him.
"I'm sorry I won't be there to jump up and down when you get good grades or to make you laugh if you get bad ones. I'm sorry I won't be there to take you celebrating when you get into the college or your dreams or for your graduation or your wedding…" he trailed off. "I know I would be so proud…" He took another deep breath. "I'm sorry I won't be there to hold you when you cry over your first love or to offer to beat him with a blunt stick for making you hurt…" he almost smiled then and Kagome couldn't help but do the same, even through her tears. "Maybe I can haunt him, huh?" he offered. He grew serious again. He laboriously leaned back against the chair. "I'm tired, Angel," he told her. "And I'm sorry that we must say goodbye so soon…"
Kagome scrambled forward to get closer to the screen, in an attempt to somehow get closer to him.
"But I'll be with you always, Angel," he told her. "My body may be growing tired, but my spirit will be with you always…you must believe that…and if you try…" it took him a moment to swallow and although he tried to hide the wince of pain as he did, she could see it. "If you try…you will be able to feel me…" he sighed and looked at her. "And although maybe, at times, you won't be able to feel me, you will know I'll be right there beside you." He took in a deep breath. "Because I love you…always…"
He blinked and the screen went blank, then into the noisy grayness of the static at the end of the tape. Kagome stared at it for a few moments, numbed to anything around her. She didn't realize she was weeping until she felt a soft touch on her shoulder. She wasn't surprised to see him as she was glad. Without a thought as to how long he had been there or how strange it might be to see the look of understanding and empathy in his eyes, she pressed into his open arms and cried tears of loss and pain, of remembrance and grief.
"It's alright…" Inuyasha spoke soothingly, slowly caressing her hair. "It's okay…" he whispered.
"I…" she fought to speak through her tears. "I never…" she took a deep breath but the tears just would not stop. "…got to say…goodbye…"
She felt Inuyasha shift under her but all she knew was that she didn't want to let him go, so she clutched at him. When he stopped moving she realized she could move closer to him so she did, and found herself crawling up onto his lap where he cradled her against him.
Through the haze of her pain, Kagome heard Inuyasha's voice, soft, close to her ear. Somehow, sometime, the tears stopped coming, and somehow, the warmth that she was wrapped in chased away the cold that had seeped through her bones and she realized she had stopped shaking. She lay perfectly still, her legs curled up against her to better fit on his lap, and her head against his chest, hearing his heart beat rhythmically next to her ear, feeling the soft rise and fall of his chest as he breathed.
"He tried to tell me…" she spoke and although low and a bit hoarse, her voice was calm, as if she weren't speaking about herself…as if she hadn't just been weeping uncontrollably. She was mesmerized into calm by the feel of Inuyasha's hand stroking steadily down through her hair. She closed her eyes and saw the image of her father looking down at her behind her lids, heard the soft words of his song in her eyes. "He tried to say goodbye to me, but I didn't know…" she closed her eyes tight and clutched at the folds of Inuyasha's haori.
"You were a child, Kagome," he pointed out softly. "How could you know?"
"I could've said goodbye," she said dejectedly. "I didn't even get to say I loved him one more time…I just…" she sighed. "I just came home one day from school and mamma wasn't home. Grandpa told me we weren't going to the hospital that day and that…" she couldn't continue, couldn't speak past the lump in her throat preventing her from swallowing. She forced herself to swallow. "I don't remember the funeral," she admitted. "I think I was in shock."
"It would never have been enough," Inuyasha spoke. "Even if you would have told him right before he slipped from the world, even if saying, 'I love you,' would've been the last words he heard, it wouldn't be enough for you right now."
Something about Inuyasha's tone finally got through to her and she realized she hadn't looked at him since she dove into his arms. She knew her eyes had to be red and swollen, but she didn't care. She pushed away from his chest a little and turned her head up to look at him. At first, all she saw was the bottom of his set chin, his head focused into the distance, beyond the television that was still quietly running static.
"Inuyasha…" she spoke quietly.
"Nothing you could've said to him would've made the pain of loosing him any less, nothing could make you feel like there was something more you could have done, that if only you had thought of something else…had more time…"
Kagome's hand reached up to gently touch his chin and his face turned down to look at her. His eyes were gleaming but he hadn't shed a tear. "Inuyasha…"
"He knew," Inuyasha repeated. He scoffed a little. "They're parents…they always know." He sighed. "Even if we're too young to tell them."
"You…" she started, but faltered. What could she say?
His hand trailed across her forehead, pushing the stray hair out of her eyes and his touch was so soft, so tender that she felt her heart constrict. When it came back around, to gather up the stubborn strands, her eyes closed and his fingertips trailed almost imperceptibly soft across her eyelids. "You'll be okay…" he told her.
He started to pull his hand away from the contact with her skin and Kagome's eyes shot open and her hand reached out to stop him.
It wasn't enough, Kagome knew. It wasn't enough to explain to him everything that his simple touch meant to her in that moment, but it would have to do. She pressed his hand to her cheek and closed her eyes.
She felt the minimal movement of his body as he shifted to bring her closer, even closer to him. She could feel the minimal pulse of his blood as it rushed through his veins and she leaned her head against his chest to get closer to that pulse.
This was love.
The realization hit her like someone shining a light into a dark corner, so bright and glaring that she had to blink for a few moments in order to get her eyes to focus clearly.
Not just any love…no. She had thought, for months now, that she loved Inuyasha. But this was more…this was the love. The love her father had been speaking to her about. The one he warned her would hurt as if her heart were being ripped from her chest, but also the one that would comfort her like a warm blanket…like arms holding her and protecting her from everything and anything…even her own sorrow.
'Inuyasha…' Kagome thought, pressing a little tighter against him, allowing herself this moment to hold him, to be held by him. It was too much to ask that she come to this realization now and not be weak…not give in. 'Oh, pappa,' she told him silently. 'Inuyasha is…the one.' But what of it? She found herself wondering. What did that change? Inuyasha's scent was all around her, and Kagome inhaled deeply, washing the doubts from her mind by the sheer fact that he was there with her. And that he wasn't pushing her away. And, for this one moment, she wouldn't question why this was happening, why she was being offered this chance, but she would embrace it instead.
"You…" she whispered, feeling calmer already, but not ready to let him go. She swallowed. "How much did you see?" she managed.
"Most of it," he answered after a moment. "I didn't want to bother you but I couldn't…"
"It's okay…" she interrupted his explanation. "I don't mind."
"He really loved you."
Kagome nodded but said nothing.
"You don't speak about him much."
Kagome shrugged a little. "I didn't realize how much about him I had forgotten," she whispered.
"It's so easy to not think about the pain."
She sighed. "I shouldn't have forgotten him."
"You didn't," he countered.
She didn't know how to tell him that she had. Not completely, she didn't forget that she had a father, but she had forgotten his voice…she had been content to remember a hazy image of him and how many days, weeks, months went by between moments she remembered him?
"Do you remember your mother?" she asked suddenly, her voice never loosing that sleepy quality, her mind entrenched in the feeling that this wasn't real, this was some dream and so it was okay to talk about it.
If this were real, after all, Inuyasha wouldn't be holding her the way he was. If it were real, he wouldn't be stroking her hair or cradling her against his chest as if the more of her he carried the more he could protect her.
"Sometimes," he confessed after a long time. She thought that was all he was going to say. "But…" he paused. "But it's like trying to remember a dream…" She looked at him and found him staring at the television. "I wish I had something…" he closed his eyes and leaned back on the couch. "…something of hers to remember her by."
Kagome shifted, moved her legs so she could lean up a little and get a better look at his face. He absently accommodated the hold his hands had on her waist, the hand at her back shifting to her hip. She brought a hand up to his face and let her fingers trace his contours like his did hers…something about the contact had calmed her and she wanted to give him that comfort…that calm of knowing she was here just as he had given her the comfort of his presence.
Inuyasha's eyelids fluttered under her touch but didn't open, and Kagome was convinced it was some sort of dream…the Inuyasha she saw nearly every day would have screamed at her by now. Would have scoffed at the very least…
She shook her head. No, she thought. That wasn't fair. He was tender, too. She remembered his hand on her back as she slept off a fever. She remembered his care when he bandaged a small cut on her finger. He hid it well.
Her hand continued its soft tour of the contours of his face. "You have her nose…" she whispered as her fingers gently traced the body part, as if she were just now learning what a nose was.
His eyes did open then to stare at her in surprise, but she ignored him.
"And your chin…" she let her fingers flitter over it and waited for Inuyasha to move his head to look at her, but he never did and when she glanced, his eyes were closed again in silent permission, so she continued. "Your chin is like your mother's, too," she finished.
Finally, her hands trailed over his lips lightly, a fingernail gently traced the line of his upper lip and the fullness of his lower lip and when she did, she felt the fingers on her hip tighten, and although his lips might have parted a minimal inch, his face didn't move.
"And your lips…" she whispered, her finger still lightly touching, exploring.
"Kagome…" he breathed.
Something about the sound of her name on his lips, the question in his tone, the need in it, brought her eyes to his. She searched his eyes, trying to read them without asking for him to speak, but what she saw there was doubt and empathy.
She smiled at him a little and shook her head. "It's alright…" she whispered. "I understand."
She leaned back down and rested her head against his chest, content to remain here for a while longer. As long as it would last…as long as it would be allowed her.
"No, you don't," he spoke.
She opened her eyes and would've questioned him, but he brought his hand to her chin and raised her head before she could.
"What do you want from me?" he asked her, suddenly. "I…" he shook his head.
Kagome furrowed her brows and she shook her head. "I'm sorry, Inuyasha," she said. "I didn't mean to…"
He looked at her and captured her eyes with his intense stare. "Don't apologize," he clipped. "Just answer me…what do you want from me? What can I give you?" He seemed to have come to some sort of decision in his head because he seemed intent on getting an answer. "When you wake up tomorrow, when we're back on our journey, when you've gotten control of your emotions again, what will you have wanted of me now?"
Kagome felt as if she were about to cry again. What did she want? The answer was obvious…she wanted everything. But could she tell him that? "Inuyasha, I…"
Inuyasha sighed and stopped her from speaking with a hand to her lips, the contact shocking her into silence. "I saw that video, Kagome," he told her. "I saw the look in your father's eyes…you're meant for something more…more than…" unable to hold her eyes, he turned away. "…any of this." He put his head back against the sofa and closed his eyes again. "Why are you…?" he couldn't finish the thought, couldn't speak the question for fear of getting an answer.
She looked at him for a few moments, realizing that he was still holding her, that he hadn't pushed her away. She thought to continue the conversation, but she was tired. She didn't care what he'd want in the morning, or what it would mean for their journey when it was time to continue. She didn't care if it did show that she was weak or even if it showed him that she loved him…really loved him…the kind of love you got offered once in a lifetime. She didn't care what she was meant for either. All she cared about was now…this moment…
She settled against him again. "I don't know what'll happen in the morning, Inuyasha," she answered. "I don't know what my father meant by all those things he said in the end, either. All I do know…" she closed her eyes and listened to his heart. "Is that all I want…right now…" she sighed, allowing herself to relax into the moment before sleep. "…is this."
His sudden movement shocked her and her eyes fluttered open to see his head raised and his eyes intent on hers. She saw it as he debated something in his mind and realized it mere seconds before his hands reached up to cradle the side of her face that he had come to a conclusion.
"I'm sorry Kagome," he told her, serious, determined, afraid. "But that's not enough anymore."
Her instinct was to speak, to argue, but the air was robbed from her lungs as his lips came down on hers.
What started as an almost desperate press of flesh against flesh took in her gasp of surprise and slowed…became an exploration…a lingering sampling of the flavors of her mouth...
He was so gentle. He was careful with her as she sank into the feeling of falling, safe only by the firm press of his arms around her and the breath he shared with her. If she fell, she knew he would fall with her and then it would be alright.
She tasted the salt of her own tears on his lips as he pulled away from her. She saw the doubt in his eyes, the apology in them, cresting on those lips…those were her lips, she decided with a surge of possessiveness. Not his mother, not his father, not even a dead priestess who claimed she owned his life…his lips at least, were hers. He had proven that. They belonged to her and her alone. And because they were hers, she felt it was her right to put her hand to them, still them from moving.
"Tonight," she told him. "Tomorrow…" she shook her head. "And any day after that…" she looked into his eyes. "I want…"
"Everything," he breathed.
She smiled suddenly, through her tears, through the joy and the pain and the feeling of loss and the sudden feeling of belonging. It was all wonderfully intermixed inside her and all she knew is that she wanted it all, everything that was hers to have and she would fight for it. "Everything," she confirmed, and pressed her lips to his once more.
A/N: Okay, a few things. First of all, I would like to thank LilacRose23 and KrisCynical, without whom this one-shot probably wouldn't have gotten to where it is. Kris, thanks for prompting me to continue the narration from where I would've left it and thanks for reading it so many times and Lilac…thanks for knowing just what to say to make me feel secure about the excess fluff in this piece. Both of you have been indispensable in the formation of this story. Without you guys, I probably would've fought Puck more than usual and I wouldn't have gone any further than Inu's initial appearance! So, thanks a bunch, guys!
Second; the song Kagome's father sings to her is the song, Lullaby (Goodnight my Angel) by the great Billy Joel.
This was a very difficult piece for me to do because I had to tap into a lot of my own memories and experiences with my father to write all of Kag's feelings for him, but I hadn't really seen something done like this, so I hope it is good and pleasant for you guys to read.
That said…yes, I would very much like to get comments and reviews from you guys. All of you that know me know how iffy I can get when I write something too emotional, so please please please let me know what you think. I can take any kind of constructive criticism, so feel free.
I guess that's it. Hope you enjoyed it, and see you next time! .